I had my best ride yet today.
And my worst.
I left the house this morning – electric. I cruised out of my parking place, stopped at the intersection, danced off the line when the signal turned green and flew down the hill to the waterfront, making every light.
I was onto the boat with zero hesitation and first off and out onto my favorite back road with no stalls and plenty of time to get to work. The fall breeze blew bright yellow and orange leaves in seductive swirls around my tires and I was hypnotized by the early morning light and the rumble of the bike’s engine against my too-thin-for-this-weather jeans, its roar muted and reassuring through my helmet.
The cold was invigorating and I buzzed through a busy morning of work – more than once distracted by the tiny keys sitting on the edge of my desk, reminding me of what waited outside once the clock hit five.
I couldn’t make it that long. I made lunch plans with a friend and reassured her that I didn’t need a ride. I hopped on the bike, got lost, and really started to play with the hills and wide curves of these beautiful back roads. I felt it all..
Also: I was late to lunch.
I got my first tank of gas on the way to the evening ferry – such a perfect day of riding and I was so excited to see 15 more bikers pull up to wait for the boat. Moto Guzzis and Ducatis and Suzukis and even another Bonnie. The energy in the group hummed with the weekend. Friday always feels good, but this one was particularly welcome.
We scooted off the boat and cruised along the water back toward my neighborhood. The rest of the bikes pulled ahead, but there are lots of potholes and errant pedestrians on this stretch, so I checked my speed. There wasn’t room for me at the top of the hill where they’d reached a red light, so rather than sit it out on the incline, I waited at the bottom. They took off as soon as the light changed but I stalled. Panicked. Got to the crest of the hill, but hadn’t let the clutch all the way out and stalled again in the middle of the intersection, forcing a city bus to come to a screeching halt.
I was shaking. I pushed my bike out of the way and off to the side of the road and tried to collect myself and start again. I stalled and stalled and stalled. My heart rate was through the roof. I was so close to home and so disappointed. I couldn’t get her going. What the fuck was wrong with me? I had this. A perfect day! I gave her one last start and she died on me – with a brand new battery. Failure. I couldn’t do anything but accept it.
I pulled her up between two parked cars where she’d be safe, managed to get the disc brake lock on with trembling fingers, and then started walking. I took one last look at her and couldn’t hold it back any longer. Tears of frustration rolled down my cheeks and I pushed my visor up so that I could breathe the cool night air in big heaving gulps. I stopped and sat on the sidewalk and just cried it out into my helmet. Maybe if I left it on, no one would notice the lanky girl in the leather jacket sobbing uncontrollably on the side of the road.
As I walked the last few blocks to my place, I didn’t question my decision to buy the bike. I didn’t miss my 4Runner. I did, however, wonder what had changed between getting off the boat and stopping my bike at that hill. I’ve started there almost every day I’ve ridden with no problems. Maybe I got excited and caught up in the energy of a group of riders who are much more experienced than I am. Maybe I wasn’t focused. I’d like to think that I was feeling cocky, but what really happened was probably that the reality of my time on the bike caught up with my newfound confidence and the two are not quite aligned after just 6 days of riding. Reality bites.
On the upside, I have a new friend who went out of his way to bail me out. He got my bike back to my apartment, got her running, and safely parked in her spot around the corner from my building. My go to currency for kindness that is truly priceless is really good whiskey, and I was armed and ready before he picked me up. Good whiskey is an emotional experience – so is draining a bike battery by being an idiot – so I felt like it was a fair trade.
All told, I am humbled by the selflessness of the people who have helped me in this short week of riding, and I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to tell them how much they’ve actually given me. The encouragement to press on, a lift when I’ve needed it, a reminder that it’s all going to be worth it… small gestures that often make me wonder what I’ve done to deserve such kindness from near strangers.
This bike has ripped me from the complacency of solitude that has been my hidey hole for a long time. While the place where we have been wrenched apart is certainly tender, it has provided an opening for a life full of places that I must go, things I want to be a part of and people who the universe obviously thinks that I need to know. Out here, it is hotter and colder and brighter and louder than I ever could have imagined, and I’m pretty sure there’s no going back.
Thank you all so much for helping me get here. Burns and scrapes and bruises, wounded ego, full heart and all.